Analyzing The 2016-17 PFA Team of the Year

April 20th, 2017 marked the announcement of the 2016-17 PFA Premier League Team of the Year. As always, there are a few eyebrow-raising selections. But on the whole it is a really solid team full of players who have been absolutely incredible this year for their clubs. The Mastermind’s very own Team of the Season can be found right here, but for now it is time to dissect and analyze why each player has earned or in some cases hasn’t earned their selection to this year’s PFA Team of the Year.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea 

Essentially, David De Gea is named as this season’s best goalkeeper not for his play for this season but for his reputation as the best goalkeeper in the world. When tasked to pick a best possible Premier League XI, no one is leaving out David De Gea, but that doesn’t mean that over the course of the 2016-17 season that he has been the best goalkeeper in the league. This is in fact the Spaniard’s fourth selection to the Team of the Year in the past five seasons, only narrowly missing out in 2013-14 to Petr Cech. Of his four TOTY selections, this was by far his weakest season, with Jose Mourinho even calling into question his focus in recent matches as a transfer to Real Madrid continues to loom over his head.

Although he’s kept 12 clean sheets from 30 matches, his 2.04 saves per goal conceded doesn’t even make the top five. When looking for a better option in goal for 2016-17, Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois are certainly the two standouts as both have kept more clean sheets, made more saves and made more saves per goal conceded. Jordan Pickford also deserves a mention for having the highest number of standout goalkeeping displays this season and for a while there, keeping Sunderland in the fight to stay up. As for as De Gea goes, he is still the best keeper in the Premier League but he hasn’t been the best one this season. His selection above the likes of Courtois and Lloris is not surprising given his reputation but is certainly not as deserved as other players inside this year’s best XI.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: No
Alternatives: Thibaut Courtois, Hugo Lloris

Right Back: Kyle Walker 

As other Premier League defenders have had ups and downs and haven’t managed to be consistent standouts for their sides, Kyle Walker has been just about as consistent as they come. The Tottenham Hotspur man has had another excellent season, continuing to develop and further his reputation as the league’s best right back. Whether it’s been as part of a back four or as a wing-back, Walker has always performed to his best and has been central to everything good that Spurs have produced in 2016-17. With 5 assists from 29 appearances, his selection isn’t even the least bit puzzling and his only challenger for the spot in Victor Moses never hit the same kind of heights.

So crucial to Spurs in both attack and defense, Kyle Walker certainly deserves his selection to this PFA Team of the Year and Mauricio Pochettino will do very well to hold onto him this summer.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternatives: Victor Moses, Antonio Valencia

Centre Back: David Luiz 

David Luiz has easily been the best defender in the Premier League this season. I was very surprised and even a little disappointed that he wasn’t even on the shortlist for PFA Player of the Year as I think he fully deserves to be considered for the award.

Luiz has just been so confident at the back for Chelsea this season and he’s managed to make a massive impact in both attack and defense for the Blues. Playing the role of the sweeper, the Brazilian has acted as the last line of defense for Conte’s side in 2016-17 so incredibly well and when all else fails, he is still there to clean up the mess. With just six yellow cards and 0 defensive errors since Chelsea moved to a back three, the former PSG man has barely put a foot wrong all season and for a player that was once thought of to be just about the most rash footballer on the planet, he has truly re-branded himself as one of the world’s finest defenders again. David Luiz absolutely deserves his selection to the TOTY and was instrumental to Chelsea’s magnificent season regardless of what the final result ends up being.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternatives: Toby Alderweireld, Michael Keane

Centre Back: Gary Cahill 

If you asked anyone who the five best defenders in the Premier League this season have been, they would have named two Spurs players, two Chelsea players and one from Burnley. Depending on when you asked, Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk might have been in the mix too. But in regards to the Chelsea players, it was never about Gary Cahill, it was always about Azpilicueta and David Luiz. Those are the two who for my money have been far and away the best defenders this season. This makes Gary Cahill’s selection to the PFA Team of the Year more than puzzling and I have to wonder if it was down to many players putting Azpilicueta down as a right back rather than as a centre back.

I also believe that Cahill’s selection is based on his reputation as Britain’s finest defender. In truth, Chelsea’s captain has not had his best season by any stretch of the imagination and I could name probably ten to fifteen centre backs who have been better in 2016-17 before I got to Cahill. That being said, he has this reputation as being England’s best centre-half and when picking a Team of the Year in a league where British players still overrule, many may favour picking one of their own than an international like Alderweireld or Azpilicueta. Cahill’s had a very decent season and has looked comfortable and composed in Conte’s three man-defense all season long, but there are far too many defenders who deserved this more than him.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: No
Alternatives: Cesar Azpilicueta, Jan Vertonghen

Left Back: Danny Rose 

For the first half of the season, absolutely, Danny Rose was the best left-back in the league. He’s been a key cog in Tottenham’s steady and sturdy defense for the third year in a row and has continued his ever-growing reputation as the best left-back in the league. That being said, in a 10-month season, Rose has missed four months and has only featured in half the number of games that have been played. His statistics per 90 have been all across the board improved upon from last season when he was also selected to the Team of the Year, but because he’s just missed so much football my personal selection for this slot undoubtedly goes to Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso.

Rose is certainly the best left back that England have to offer and he might even be the best left-back in the league on paper, but Alonso has made more of an influence on Chelsea’s team across the campaign this season. It’s such a close call that either one of them would have fully deserved the selection but Alonso has been part of an incredible defense that looks set to win the title while simultaneously bagging 5 goals and 2 assists! Rose, although he deserves the selection, for my mind ultimately edges out Alonso in the minds of the PFA due to that British connection again and for his reputation as being England’s best left-back.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternatives: Marcos Alonso, Leighton Baines

Centre Midfield: N’Golo Kante 

Despite making less tackles and interceptions per game than he managed with Leicester last season, Kante has arguably been even better this season for Chelsea. Even in games where Chelsea haven’t been dominant, Kante has, and so he was integral to helping them grind out some seriously impressive results in 2016-17. Also there’s a reason as to why he hasn’t made as many tackles or interceptions this season. Chelsea have simply kept more possession of the ball than Leicester ever managed to in 2015-16. He hasn’t made as many tackles or interceptions, because he hasn’t been required to do so at quite the same rapid rate in 2016-17. When he’s been required to do the kind of ball-winning that he demonstrated with Ranieri’s side last year, he’s done so brilliantly well, even making a single-match league leading tally of 14 tackles against Liverpool in February.

The Frenchman’s role in Antonio Conte’s infrangible Chelsea unit just can’t be understated and it’s hard to imagine they would have made this kind of an impact on the 2016-17 Premier League season without him in central midfield. Kante doesn’t just earn his selection to the Team of the Year, he deserves to win the PFA Player of the Year, the results of which are still to be decided.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternative: Ander Herrera

Centre Midfield: Dele Alli 

How quiet Dele Alli was in the first half of the season has been completely forgotten simply because of how rampant he has been in scoring and assisting goals since the turn of the year. Don’t get me wrong, Alli has been insanely good this season and is pulling off feats that are impressive for anyone at any age, let alone a 21-year old. But in the wake of his outstanding play since the turn of the year it has been forgotten that after 15 games played, he had only scored 3 goals. Now he sits at 31 appearances from a possible 32 with 16 goals and 5 assists to his name, so you can see what I mean.

With that being said, especially because of the fact that he is still a young man, still only 21 years old, there was never going to be any other option to partner N’Golo Kante in central midfield on the Team of the Year. He’s been unbelievable this season and hasn’t just established himself as one of the Premier League’s best players but as one of the best players in the world of football.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternative: Adam Lallana

Right Wing: Sadio Mane

While Alexis Sanchez has moaned, whined and thrown hissy fits at being substituted in games, Sadio Mane has garnered the respect of his fellow professionals for just going about his business and scoring goal after goal, game after game. Loaded with pace and power, Mane has been Liverpool’s star and standout player this season and when he isn’t in the team, Klopp’s system aren’t the same. After picking up an injury in the Merseyside derby, he’ll end the season with 13 goals and 5 assists from 27 matches this season, a highly respectable tally in all regards. But it’s not just about the goals for the Senegalese winger. He’s been a constant source of energy for Liverpool and while helping out at both ends of the pitch has not only made Firmino and Coutinho better but Nathaniel Clyne as well!

For me it wasn’t even a question that Sadio Mane deserved his selection to the Team of the Year. But in the closing weeks leading up to the announcement, I was worried that his injury troubles and Alexis Sanchez’s reputation as being a far superior player would lead to the Senegalese winger missing out. Luckily, the players got this one right, for my money anyway, in selecting Sadio Mane as the best right winger this season.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternatives: Christian Eriksen, Pedro

Left Wing: Eden Hazard

What more needs to be said about Eden Hazard that hasn’t already been discussed? The Chelsea man has been arguably this season’s standout star and has bounced back brilliantly from a lackluster campaign in 2015-16. It’s not as though 14 goals with 5 assists is his best tally of his career, but the Belgian has played some of his best football this year and for a player considered to be a little inconsistent, all he needs is one more goal to make this his best goal scoring season in a Chelsea shirt.

Beyond that, he’s led Chelsea in a number of games this season. Games in which they have been fully in control like a 5-0 thumping of Everton and games in which he has been required to step up to the plate and grind out a result for his side like both matches against Manchester City and that magnificent performance against Arsenal. After a season in which he began to lose supporters, Eden Hazard has truly re-established himself as one of the world’s finest footballers and may be on his way to winning his second Player of the Year award.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternatives: Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho

Striker: Harry Kane 

This season Harry Kane has established himself as one of the best footballers in the world and if he stays in England, looks destined to become one of the leagues greatest ever strikers. With six games still left to go for Spurs in 2016-17, Harry Kane has already scored 69 Premier League goals in 100 appearances, the same tally as Luis Suarez who was given 990 more minutes of playing time when he was with Liverpool. What Kane has managed to do this season is remarkable. He’s had to come back from an ankle injury not once but on two occasions this season and both times has bounced back incredibly well to continue to be in the fight for the Golden Boot. He’s still only 23, but this is now his third season in a row scoring 20+ goals in the league, something he only shares in common with Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Ruud Van Nilsterooy.

But Harry Kane is just so much more than just about the goals. He links up with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen incredibly well, he creates a ton of chances for his teammates to score and he always works hard in every area of the pitch. He’s not just a complete striker, he’s a complete player, and at the age of 23 it won’t be too long before we start to talk about Harry Kane in the same breath as some of the all-time Premier League greats.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternative: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Striker: Romelu Lukaku 

In previous years Romelu Lukaku has often been knocked for being too inconsistent and not stepping up to the plate when Everton have desperately needed him to most. This season, the only talk that has been about Lukaku has been whether he is a star or a superstar! He’s just been that good all season long and with 24 goals and 6 assists from 32 matches, he looks destined to win his first ever golden boot. Heck, if he continues on at the rate that he’s been scoring in recent months, he might even break 30!

Despite playing for just the league’s 7th best team, there was never any other option to partner Kane up top in the Premier League Team of the Year and I’ll be absolutely shocked if he is still at Everton next season. Lukaku no longer just has promise and potential, he’s already there, hitting the highest tallies in the biggest league in the world. Whether it’s with Bayern Munich, Chelsea or Man U, Romelu Lukaku is set to become one of the world’s very best strikers.

Does He Deserve The Selection?: Yes
Alternative: Diego Costa

So there it is! A full analysis of the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for 2016-17. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below! Thanks for reading!

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